It should come as no surprise to anyone that Tiger Mom Amy Chua’s daughter was accepted at Harvard. If you read the book, you know that Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld is smart, hard-working, talented and ambitious — all that before her mother even steps in with piano practice schedules and elite tutors. Sophia probably chose Harvard, not the other way around.
Of course, getting a child accepted to one of the nation’s most prestigious schools makes plenty of parents slobber all over themselves. How? What are the hoops? What can I do for (to?) my child so that he may have the same fate as Chua’s kid? Getting into an Ivy League school is proof that the Tiger Mom method of shaming the kids, competing with classmates, mastering a classical instrument through grueling practice schedules, name-calling, and forking over thousands and thousands of dollars to Mandarin-speaking nannies, violin and piano teachers, and private schools — and, famously, forbidding sleepovers and self-direction — works.
Right? It works! Well, sure. But the thing is, you don’t have to do all that just to get your kid into Harvard.
In fact, you might not want to.
When Amy Chua went on the road to promote her book and defend herself, she often said something to the effect that the Tiger Mom method works because it’s just getting kids to reach their full potential by any means necessary. It’s actually a way, Chua says, of demonstrating to your kid that you believe in them.
After reading her book, I thought the opposite was kind of true: by making every decision for them, dictating to them their every move, the message was more like, “deep down, I don’t think you have what it takes.” Her younger daughter Lulu suspects — and tests — the same thing.
Sophia’s Harvard freshman class 2011 will be made up of other Tiger cubs, no doubt. But the rest got in simply by being smart, connected, or smart and connected. Not brilliant smart even, just smart enough, which isn’t to say some members of her class won’t also be brilliant — and accomplished and interesting, talented and hardworking like Sophia. Some will have been born with these characteristics, others worked hard for them. No other will have had their home life laid so bare, but that’s a topic for another day.
What I’m trying to say is there are many ways to get a kid into Harvard — if Tiger Momming it isn’t your thing, don’t sweat it. If it is your thing? Brace yourself for a different outcome. There are no guarantees no matter how hard you — uh, I mean your kid — tried.